Letter: Nationalistic pride is what St. Maarten needs

POSTED: 10/6/11 12:49 PM

Dear Editor,
Nationalism is often associated with an unwavering national pride, with a love of country, of the nation and unquestionable loyalty. Strong feelings of patriotism, which would be more accurately termed strong feelings of allegiance, are usually just called ‘nationalist’ feelings and these are often exaggerated or distorted. The essence of people to create an easily identifiable visual likeness in the media as an unwavering support of the country, regardless of facts, regardless of what the country is doing to people abroad or at home. But nationalism is distinct from simple minded support. After all, it is amazing how many people in the world just happen to be born in the country they believe is the best in the world. Just as it’s quite amazing how many people just happen to be born into the ‘one true religion’.
Nationalism is world outlook, an ideology and a belief that the nation is the most logical basis to build a state or country around, as opposed to other modern ideologies which build states and countries based on the acceptance of certain premises, or simply define and build them by who holds particular documents, or who pays taxes, or who belongs to a particular religion.
While modern liberalism states that a country is nothing more than an aggregate of participants, and the background and cultural heritage of the participants is meaningless (and at the same time very meaningful in multicultural terms, an odd paradox), nationalism states that a country is defined by the very people which founded it (native St. Maarteners), and that it is an organic entity.
A nationalist country is a country which defines itself by the people. Finland for example doesn’t define what a Finn is, but a Finn defines what Finland is. Likewise, Japan isn’t a country which makes its inhabitants Japanese, but the country Japan is founded upon the Japanese culture and ethnicity. The people define what Japan the state is. So a nationalist can be thought of in a strict sense, as one who holds the belief that the nation (in the literal sense) is the most appropriate basis for building political entities on. This is in opposition to the liberal ideal where a country (a term they use interchangeable with nation, as if they are the same thing) is simply an administrative entity; a resource which could consist of any type of citizen or any combination.
More importantly, a nationalist works for the betterment of their nation, for its evolution, its cultural growth, its well being, prosperity and sustainability. One cannot improve their own home if they don’t admit there is room for improvement.

Nationalism vs. ‘blind patriotism’
But does a nationalist have to love his or her country? Is it necessary to believe that your country is the best there is or that all is good to be a nationalist? Is it necessary to defend your government’s actions against critics? Holding the belief that a state needs a deeper, more significant definition than simply being a group of people who hold ideas of ‘mate ship’, eating fish and rice and dumpling, watching baseball and softball or basketball, doesn’t mean that one has to necessarily hold the idea that their country is the best there is, that it must be supported despite what it does.
The actions of the state, of the government and even of many of its citizens are distinct from what the nation is. What the country has become is again distinct. A nationalist wants the best for their country, but will acknowledge if there is a sorry state of affairs. Likewise, a nationalist may indeed feel dismay at their country, even so far as to hate what it’s become. Take for example a lady whose husband has taken to alcoholism. She may still love him, may still support him, because he is her husband. She doesn’t have to love what he has become, what he is. She knows deep down that he perhaps is not the best man in the world, she knows what he’s doing is wrong and damaging to both him and her. But she cannot in good conscience lash at out those who criticize him, nor lie to herself and believe that these criticisms aren’t true. Inside she may be torn between sticking by the man she met and fell in love with, and the man he has become, destructive, despotic and distant.
To love your country, make it more lovable. For people to love a country, it must be lovable. It must provide fair opportunities for those who work to create them, a space to live, breath, be and to respect the national identity (or native people). Nationalism isn’t about simply stating that one’s country does this, it’s about making one’s own country like this.
True nationalists don’t just wave flags at softball or basketball games. They set about making their country one they would be proud to support and live in. They oppose those who manipulate the state to the detriment of the nation. A nationalist works for his or her people, and cannot improve their nation, if they don’t admit there is room for improvement. You cannot restore a sense of love of country by winning the softball game, or having a diversity day. You cannot demand patriotism, as if it were a switch that could be flicked. You must work toward building a nation that people can be proud of and that they feel attachment to.
To have St. Maarteners love and support their country, you have to work at making it worthy of support. This is the true heart of nationalism – building and maintaining a country which one would want to be in. It is for this reason that the nationalist alternative seeks to redress issues of unaffordable housing, silly multicultural principles, unsustainable population growth through immigration and economic injustice.
We support our nation, and want the state to be worthy of the people within the nation. For us, St. Maarten isn’t defined by the government, but by the culture and native St. Maarten people not forgetting the born here or naturalize people that love this country – St. Maarten. Our country is for our people, for ourselves, just as we believe that every other peoples of the planet should have a place they can call home, that they can be proud of.
There is no need to say ‘my country is the best in the world’, but there is definitely a need to say ‘my country is the best one for me’, something that ideally every human should be able to say, or at least aspire for. I will take a break again until next time please read and digest.

Miguel Arrindell
The patriot

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